Churches, members mobilize to help
people with disease
(December 30, 2001)
Close to half a million children,
adolescents and adults are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.
Assemblies of God churches and individuals are responding with Christlike
compassion, striving to help meet physical, emotional and spiritual
For the past four years, Lance and
Mary Ann Hastings have been Assemblies of God home missionaries to people
with HIV/AIDS. Starting out in Puerto Rico and now stationed in the
Old Town section of Key West, Fla., their ministry focuses on establishing
relationships and acts of service to people with AIDS.
"For the first 13 years of
our 27-year marriage, Lance was involved in the homosexual lifestyle,"
Mary Ann says. "We should have been dead from AIDS before we became
Christians. When we were saved, it meant that God had not given us just
one new life, but two. How could we say no when He asked us to share
life with His other children who were dying without Him?"
The Hastingses volunteer at an AIDS-assistance
organization, driving people to medical appointments, helping them buy
groceries and pay bills. They have had the opportunity to pray with
many people frightened about their illness.
Lance volunteers for a local hospice
group, sitting with people who are dying or providing respite for the
caregiver. He offers to officiate funerals for those people who dont
have a church or minister. The couple visit the county jail, conducting
Bible studies and counseling sessions. They teach on AIDS and issues
of homosexuality when opportunities arise.
"The church has a responsibility
to be in this type of ministry because Scripture tells us to do justice,
but love mercy and walk humbly with our God," Mary Ann says. "Jesus
would have been right there healing people with AIDS, just as He was
with the forgotten and hurting people of His day."
On the other side of the country,
Tara Calverley coordinates a food-distribution program to people who
are HIV-positive for Peninsula Christian Center in Redwood City, Calif.
The groceries are provided by a nonprofit organization and distributed
weekly to up to 15 families. Through the deliveries, believers have
built relationships and shared the gospel.
"This is a tangible way of
helping people," Calverley says. "Churches should be reaching
their community on a daily basis if theyre not, theyre
not fulfilling their function."
The Los Angeles International Church
has two programs that help people with HIV/AIDS. The City Help Wellness
Center provides emergency housing and the church offers a yearlong live-in
program for individuals with HIV who want help in developing a relationship
The discipleship program includes
prayer times, chapel, guided personal study and specific teachings for
people with life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS.
"In the past its been
difficult in the church to talk about AIDS because theres a stigma,"
says Nancy Urban, associate director of the Wellness Center. "The
church needs to get more involved in reaching out in love to all individuals,
regardless of their past."